LAFAYETTE — The Billings Royals club team is arguably one of the best to be invited to the Boulder National Invitational Tournament each of the past two summers, a load of tradition and experience packed away nicely on their distinguishable travel bus.

For the Peak to Peak summer team known as Puma Baseball, the greeting against the Royals at the Peak to Peak field in their pool play opener was a rough one Wednesday night. A rainy evening and a solid-hitting Royals team — some of them fresh off their first year of college — put the Pumas in a hole to begin things with an 8-0, four-inning victory to round out the first day.

But to returning varsity shortstop Matt Bagnato, there was plenty to be gained from the lopsided affair. The Pumas, who went 17-6 last spring in Class 3A, are trying to navigate their pitching staff and fill in some other holes while at the same time attempting to maintain the success they've seen lately.

The entry into the Boulder NIT, which is being played through Sunday at various fields around the area, is exactly the type of competition that will help build guys up, even at the expense of some losses.

"It's definitely good for our guys because we're pretty much a group of younger kids ... I would guess our average age is 15" Bagnato said. "It's good for our guys to develop with games like this, even though the game, the score isn't what you hope for. It's all part of growing."


Peak to Peak is one of the six host sites for pool play, and the Pumas' pool is stacked with three club teams — they'll get Slammers Fiscus and Batters Box Navy on Thursday in an attempt to reach the 16-team playoff bracket.

Billings proved they had the pitching, hitting and defense that will make it tough on anyone. Brandon Alvarez was the only successful Peak to Peak player at the plate, scorching the team's only two hits in the mercy-rule shortened contest.

Peak to Peak third baseman Hayden Wilcox flashed his glovework a couple of times to highlight the Pumas' fielding efforts, as did a clean field-and-relay from Alvarez in left field to throw out a baserunner trying to stretch out a double in the fourth.

Nico DeNiro started the game on the hill for Peak to Peak, and Bagnato said it was good for DeNiro to get time against batters that will challenge nearly everything. The Pumas will likely need DeNiro at the top of their pitching rotation next spring after the graduation of Tommy Shriver and Brayden Weyer.

"Nico is a good kid to know and a good one to have on our team. I think he has a few more inches to grow and his pitching style is really going to help us, especially playing the Metro League," Bagnato said. "He has a different arm slot and his velocity is getting up there.

"We're looking forward to some better games (Thursday)."

Adam Dunivan: or

Billings Royals 8, Puma Baseball (Peak to Peak) 0

At Peak to Peak HS

Billings Royals151 1 — 8 8 0

Puma Baseball000 0 — 0 2 2

L — DeNiro.

Puma Baseball hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Wilcox 2-0-0-0, Alvarez 2-0-2-0, G. Shriver 2-0-0-0, M. Bagnato 2-0-0-0, N. DeNiro 1-0-0-0, A. Bagnato 1-0-0-0, Gendreau 1-0-0-0, Nelson 1-0-0-0, Hall 1-0-0-0. Totals 13-0-2-0. 2B — Alvarez.

Puma Baseball pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — DeNiro 4-8-8-3-1-1.